New keyboard layouts

Tiago Marques tiagomnm at
Wed Apr 28 13:26:05 EDT 2010

On Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 6:02 PM, Benjamin M. Schwartz <
bmschwar at> wrote:

> On Wed, 28 Apr 2010, Walter Bender wrote:
>  On Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 12:24 PM, Tiago Marques <tiagomnm at>
>> wrote:
>>> I was just looking at the layout again and just noticed the new arrow
>>> keys
>>> placement.
>  We debated this one. A shorter shift key would be difficult to type
>> on. We opted to emulate the hjkl vi arrangement.
> Keyboard layout is virtually the ultimate bikeshed painting problem ... but
> here's my opinion anyway.
> Ins and Del are Harmful.  You probably know Ins because when you
> accidentally bump it, your editor switches into "overwrite" mode, and every
> character you type deletes another until you figure out what happened and
> hit Ins again.  "Del" is the reverse erase that nobody wants.  Apple, and
> the XO-1, have eliminated Ins and relegated Del to Fn+Erase.  I recommend
> removing both.
I had exactly those same problems with Ins when I started using computers
and can't remember the last time I used it. As for Del, I didn't even knew
it was supported in the XO but I have felt the need for it. Perhaps, if a
merge is in order, an F style mention would be the way to go?


> Getting rid of those keys frees up valuable space that can be used, for
> example to move += to the top row, replaced by ?, replaced by up-arrow.  No
> more hjkl.
> Some other notes:
> 1. fn is a bad key because software can't reuse it.  For example, on the
> XO-1 we tried to make fn+F1 send an F1 press to the activity (instead of
> going to the mesh view), but it was not possible because the fn key is
> treated specially by the keyboard microcontroller, and not forwarded to the
> OS.  There was no way to tell from software whether a user had pressed fn+F1
> or just F1.
> Accordingly, on new keyboards, OLPC should consider pushing this special
> handling into the software keyboard mapping as much as possible.  It's hard
> to see why fn+Spacebar needs to be a new keycode, and not just a series of
> standard up/down events.  The only tricky spot I can think of is
> PageUp/PageDown/Home/End.
> 2. We have a lot of redundant modifier keys.  fn, altgr, and hand-key could
> all be a single key, because they are never used together.  If the keyboard
> controller would turn altgr+left into Home (etc.), there should be no
> regression of functionality, even under windows.
> --Ben
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